How is urinary incontinence treated?

There are many ways to treat incontinence. Your doctor will work with you to find the best treatment for you.Treatments include:

  • Pelvic Muscle Exercises (Kegel exercises) — easy exercises to make your pelvic muscles stronger. Doing these exercises every day can help reduce or cure stress leakage.

    If you’re not sure you’re doing Kegel exercises right, ask your doctor or nurse to check you while you try to do them. If you aren’t squeezing the right muscles, your doctor or nurse can teach you the right way to do the exercises. A pelvic floor physical therapist may be available in your area to help teach you how to strengthen these muscles or help you with other treatments listed below.

  • Electrical Stimulation — electrodes are placed in the vagina or rectum for a short time to stimulate nearby muscles and make them stronger. This treatment can reduce both stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
  • Biofeedback — biofeedback helps you learn how your body works. A therapist puts an electrical patch over your bladder and urethral muscles. A wire connected to the patch is linked to a TV screen. You and your therapist watch the screen to see when these muscles contract, so you can learn to control these muscles. Biofeedback can be used with pelvic muscle exercises and electrical stimulation to help control stress incontinence and urge incontinence.
  • Timed Voiding or Bladder Retraining — there are two ways you can train your bladder to hold urine better. In timed voiding, you urinate at set times instead of waiting for a strong urge. To do bladder retraining, you slowly increase the time between your scheduled voiding times to train your bladder to hold urine better. These treatments can reduce urge incontinence and overflow incontinence. A doctor can tell you if these may help you.
  • Weight Loss — extra weight puts more pressure on your bladder and nearby muscles, which can cause bladder control problems. If you’re overweight, work with your doctor to plan a diet and exercise program that works for you.
  • Dietary Changes — certain foods and drinks can cause incontinence, such as caffeine (found in coffee, some sodas, and chocolate), tea, and alcohol. Limiting these foods and drinks can reduce incontinence.
  • Medications — medications can reduce some types of leakage. Talk to your doctor to see if medication is right for you.
  • Pessary — a pessary is a small device that fits in your vagina and helps hold it up. A pessary can help reduce leakage. Your doctor or nurse will decide which type and size of pessary is right for you and will check the pessary regularly.
  • Implants — your doctor may suggest injecting a material into the space around the urethra with a needle. This material thickens the area around the urethra so you can control your urine flow better.
  • Surgery — surgery can fix problems such as blocked areas. It can also support the bladder or the urethra to prevent loss of urine. A surgeon can also put a small device in the body that acts on nerves to control bladder activity.
  • Urethral Inserts — a urethral insert is a thin tube that you place inside the urethra that blocks urine from coming out. You take the tube out when you need to urinate and then put it back in until you need to urinate again.
  • External Urethral Barrier — this device is a small foam or gel disposable pad that you place over the opening of the urethra. The pad seals itself against your body, keeping you from leaking. When you go to the bathroom you take it off. After urinating you place a new pad over the urethra.
  • Catheters — if nothing else helps, the doctor may suggest catheters, thin tubes placed in the bladder by a doctor or by you. A catheter drains the bladder for you, sometimes into an attached bag.